2012 AUDI A6 AVANT REVIEW
What’s Hot: Sleek swoopy style, beautiful interior and robust performance
What’s Not: Heading towards $100k once you start ticking options boxes
X-Factor: SUV space and versatility, with the dynamic performance of a sporting saloon.
Vehicle Style: Large premium wagon
Price: $82,900 (plus LCT and on-roads)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 5.1 l/100km
Fuel Economy (under test): 5.8 l/100km
The space and versatility of a wagon, with the slinky low lines of a coupe - that's Audi's elegant new A6 Avant.
Seductively styled with a sloping D-pillar, wide, wide stance and big guards-filling wheels, it's certainly easy on the eye.
And it can carry an enormous load.
Here, in this market, everyone has forgotten the charm and usefulness of the wagon. Instead, SUVs rule - and there's hardly a handsome one among them. And scant few that drive with the ease and dynamism of the new A6 Avant.
After some brisk kilometres south of Sydney into the Southern Highlands, and over a range of roads and driving conditions in the new A6, we're convinced that if you're in the market for a big SUV, you really should have a look at the Audi.
Audi Australia chief Uve Hagen describes it as a "stylish alternative to an SUV". No argument there.
With this big Audi, you get what you pay for. Audi interiors are among the best in the business, and the A6 Avant proves the rule.
The leather seats are wide and well-shaped, trimmed in supple Milano leather and, while providing firm support (it's a German car remember), we found them immensely comfortable.
Tactile surfaces across the dash and doors are finely grained and very appealing. There are leather insets in the doors and smart metal garnishes framing the console and instrument bezels.
We weren't crazy about the faux walnut wood highlights setting off the dark-tan leather trim of our tester, but for fit, finish and feel, this interior is very hard to fault.
Close the wide aluminium doors, and inside it's as snug and solid as a vault.
A premium feel? The A6 Avant oozes class at the wheel. The only downsides to these eyes are those faux trims and the brown plastic on the door grab-handles (which, although insignificant, look strangely cheap).
Front and back, the Avant is surprisingly roomy. A 'six-footer' colleague found ample legroom, even with the front seats pushed back. And, behind that back seat is a wide, low and long versatile wagon back.
It offers 565 litres of cargo space, expanding to 1680 litres with the seats folded - that's enough to transport the recently 'dearly departed' should the need arise, and certainly enough for a serious holiday pack.
There is also a luggage-rail system there, tie-down points and cargo netting for loose items.
The niftiest feature though is the sensor-operated tailgate. If you've got both arms filled with luggage, you can open the boot with a well-placed kick under the rear bumper. (We struggled to make it work... apparently it needs a Beckham-style kick, not a loose waggle of the foot.)
For features, the Avant comes well decked-out - but you'd expect it would. With an $80k-plus sticker price it's right in executive saloon territory.
There's a superb multi-function display for the audio interface, CD player, USB and MP3 player, iPod connection, trip-computer, Bluetooth and audio streaming, and MIMI hard-drive sat-nav with touch-sensitive control panel (which works a treat).
No reversing camera as standard-fit is an omission at this level of purchase though; it's a $960 tick in a box.
The long options list generally is pretty costly. Under various packages you can tick head-up display, panoramic sunroof, ventilated seats with massage function, Bose sound system (or, if you've suddenly come into a small fortune and simultaneously taken leave of your senses, a $12,340 Bang & Olufsen 1200Watt digital system), plus a host of exterior dress-up items.
On The Road
Just ten or so years ago you would scarcely have believed that such a large car with just 2.0 litres of diesel engine under the bonnet could possess such élan and such eager throttle response.
The A6 Avant TDI is simply a super drive. That long wheelbase gives it superb composure on the road; and it points with the accuracy and feel of a sporting saloon.
Swift and refined, it's a well-honed blade. (Which is, of course, the wagon advantage over a top-heavy, pudden-filled SUV... or most of them at least.)
Key to the Avant's performance is its composite aluminium and steel construction. Tipping the scales at 1630kg, it's relatively light by modern standards (two fat adults lighter than the Commodore and just 100kg heavier than the far smaller Mazda CX-5).
With 130kW and a gutsy 380Nm under the bonnet (the latter available from a low 1750rpm), and mated to an eight 'speed' CVT multitronic auto, the Avant has real get-up-and-go.
You can leave it to it's own devices or shuffle it through the ratios using the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel - either way it will quickly fire out the hole if you need to overtake, or when giving things a belt around a mountain road.
You will find the Avant TDI has winged heels if you really ask it the question. It will run to 100km/h in 8.5 seconds, but it's in the rolling acceleration - typically diesel - where it shows its real turn of speed.
And that CVT is a beauty - I've not experienced better. There is none of that 'slipping clutch' surging of the revs or awful droning that most inflict. It's as alive and connected as any sharp sporting transmission and simply a delight to use.
(With CVTs the flavour of the moment, we can only hope and pray that other manufacturers are taking note. Most are bloody awful.)
Suspension is a classy upper and lower wishbone set-up at the front, and a trapezoidal link wishbone rear. It simply works: this is one nicely balanced and refined drive.
The only downside is a wooden feel to the wheel. FWD robs the Audi of the feel and the alertness at the wheel of, say, the BMW 3 Series. The Audi is good, but bettered here.
Braking, and pedal feel - typically Audi - is superb.
And with a 5-Star ANCAP and Euro NCAP safety rating, front ventilated discs and solid rears, with ABS, ESC, and all the other safety technologies we've come to accept, there's enough safety firepower lurking there to save you from yourself (or some other idiot).
First Drive Verdict
Do we like the stylish Audi A6 Avant TDI? Indeed we do; if only all cars were as complete, as comfortable and capable.
Shortcomings? It has but few. It's costly, but it's a premium sector buy, and neither Audi nor anyone else (as much as you might wish it) is giving away quality such as you find in the A6 Avant.
If you can stretch to that premium sticker price, this is a car that makes sense - and a lot more sense incidentally than most SUVs.
Wagon, Estate, 'Shooting Brake', Avant: call it what you will, it's simply a very good drive in a very smart looking, spacious and dynamic package.
- 2012 Audi A6 Avant - 2.0 TFSI - $81,800
- 2012 Audi A6 Avant - 2.0 TDI - $82,900
Note: prices exclude on-road costs.
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